It’s ideal if you record TV to watch it somewhere with a weak internet connection.
For cord-cutters who don’t get all of their TV via streaming, Tablo’s DVRs record over-the-air broadcasts and make them available for viewing on screens of many sizes. Late last year Tablo released a dual-tuner DVR with HDMI out, that differed from its usual “headless” network-connected boxes because it was made to plug directly into a television. Now the company has launched a quad-tuner version with HDMI.
This box can even control connected televisions with its remote using HDMI-CEC, but it will require purchasers to bring their own USB-connected storage solutions. Any hard drive you plug in will need to be pretty big too, as in exchange for the extra usability of an HDMI connection, you lose the transcoding and compression of the networked boxes. By storing video as raw MPEG2 files, it can only squeeze 130 hours of recording onto a 1TB drive, as compared to the 700 hours otherwise possible. Also, while it can stream video to other devices just like the network boxes, it’s only compatible with a very limited set of hardware and will require a lot of bandwidth.
If you pay for the premium service, it can even do commercial skipping, but Tablo is pitching these boxes as ideal for users who want to use them in places where internet connections can be weak or spotty. It requires internet to set up and download guide data, but can provide offline viewing access for two weeks at a time. That way you can have a more straightforward process of recording TV via antenna and playing it back on one main TV as opposed to spreading it around via the network. The $200 Quad HDMI box is on sale now, and while you won’t find it on retail shelves it is available for ordering direct from the company’s website.